A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Is there really no such thing as a bad question?

This is the 22 foot mural in its entirety.

Note: I wrote this on Monday but decided not to post it until today (Saturday). This conference was a challenge for me in that it travelled roads I don't know I've gone down as a teacher. I've spent the better part of the week processing what I've seen and how it can be translated into the classroom. Unlike the Presidential Academy, there was only a little prep for the Insitute. We selected a painting to research and did a short reading. It has been an intense week and I will do my best to highlight what we did. I'm still processing though so if my thought seem more incoherent thatn normal ...

Day one of the Smithosonian Institution's Clarice Smith National Teacher Institute. I have to admit, I was worried about burn out. The Presidential Academy was intense. So much preparation and a packed schedule. To sit for an hour and listen to art historian and tech people might be problematic. I shouldn't have worried. I walked out of the American Art Museum with more energy and excitment that I thought I had in reserve.

The big idea behind this conference is an exploration of how teachers can integrate art and technology in 'traditional' classroom. We were asked to select a piece to focus on and I chose a Thomas Hart Benton piece called Achelous and Hercules. Its the piece at the top of this entry.

The keynote today was by Ron Richhardt from Harvard University. His research looks at effective communication strategies in the classroom. His suggested that there were five types of questions in a class:
  • review: content, terminology, process...
  • procedural: classroom management; directing the work of the class; not content-based information 
  • generative: exploration of the topic or 'wondering out loud' questions;
  • constructive: questions which help build understanding and
  • facilitating: questions which promote the learner's own thinking and understanding.
One of the things his research documents is something that most teachers know but seems counterintuitive to many folks. There more you focus on review and procedure (think; teaching to the test) the lower the assessment scores are. When students are engaged through generative, constructive and facilitating questions, the higher the test scores. The more a student is challenged and encouraged to look past the 'quick and easy' answer to real understanding, the better they do on content-driven assessment.

Dr. Richhardt also outlined what he thought were four key qualities for classroom instruction:
  • Novel application-it has to be more than just 'practicing what they know'.
  • Meaningful inquiry-they need to wrestle with new understandings and insights
  • Effective communication-lock in  understanding by talking, sharing, debating, ...
  • Intrinsic value-a sense of accomplishment or appreciation
I'm still trying to wrap my brain around what these might mean for my classroom, but wanted to get them out there. One of the values of being on-site is that I have the luxury of time to think about what is the best way to teach my charges.  I miss my family like mad but I hope I'm using my time to wrestle with what I can do better as a teacher. My students deserve no less.

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